Travel-addicted but can’t travel? 3 ways to deal with your wanderlust

A lot of us who enjoy traveling are sitting at home – or, if you’re a digital nomad, in a hotel or on a friend’s sofa – wishing desperately that this pandemic would end so we can hit the road again.

I know I am. I am travel-addicted and my “itchy feet” need scratching, yet here I am at my computer at home instead of enjoying a fam trip after a travel conference in Sicily. Not only was I planning to attend the conference; I was lined up to be a co-presenter. How cool would that have been?

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The fact that the weather here in the Netherlands sucks, to use the vernacular, doesn’t help. Rain, wind, an occasional fleeting tease of sunshine … Raindrops are really pretty when the setting sun’s shining on them, but not when you’re standing outside and the wind is making your umbrella completely useless.

Yes, you can fill your time with giving your home a good spring cleaning or binging on a Netflix series, but, frankly, for me, both are a bit depressing and don’t really deal with a bad case of wanderlust directly.

Seen from above, a white or Asian woman sprawls on a white sofa, looking at a laptop screen. She wears a simple blue dress and has bare feet.

If you’re travel-addicted like me, though, there are a few things you can do at home to deal with what feels almost like a physical need to travel.

1. Dream: be an armchair traveler.

Lots of people can’t travel, even when there’s no COVID-19 virus shutting all human interaction down. They are full-time carers for loved ones, or they are physically unable to travel, or they just can’t afford it, or they get very little vacation time – I’m looking at you, USA – and end up spending it visiting the in-laws year after year. There are probably a hundred different possible reasons why people can’t travel.

There are others who don’t like to travel. What I mean is that, while they’re interested in learning how other people live and what other environments look like, they don’t like physically traveling. They experience it as stressful and uncomfortable and would Just. Rather. Not.

Amchair travelers

Both of these categories often become “armchair travelers.” They read, in other words, about travel or, alternatively, watch travel programs or videos.

A young Asian man relaxes on a white sofa reading a book and holding a cup of coffee. If he is travel-addicted it's a book about travel!

(If you’re wondering how I could possibly know about this, it’s because some of my more loyal readers are armchair travelers. They tell me they enjoy traveling vicariously through what I write. Hearing that makes me feel good every time!)

We travel addicts can do the same things they do:

Read travel blogs

There are thousands of travel blogs online, of varying quality. Just search the place you want to know about, skim down past the first few listings (things like Tripadvisor and Lonely Planet and Wikipedia) and take a look at a blog or two. If it’s fluff, click away and try another. I assure you you’ll find good reading on many blogs and often, good photography too.

Here are a few of my favorites, but it’s hard to choose which to list, so don’t limit yourself to this list. And, of course, you should start right here on Rachel’s Ruminations!

You’ll find, if you’re as travel-addicted as I am, that the hours will fly by, as reading one article leads you to the next … which leads you to the next … and so on.

A young black man stretches out on a white sofa. He wears a white cap set backwards on his head, a white t-shirt and black shorts. His hands are on a laptop but he is smiling at the camera.

There are many more I could recommend, but these are the ones that come to mind right now. I’ll add more as I think of them or discover them.

Paul Theroux and Bill Bryson are the first that occur for me, but there are plenty of others. You don’t even need to leave home: download books to your Kindle, if you have one, or to your phone or computer, if you don’t.

Shop Paul Theroux books here:

And Bill Bryson books here:

Here’s a good list from another blogger: 50 best travel books of all time.

A grey-haired white woman sits in a comfy-looking armchair reading a book. She wears a plain white blouse and beige trousers and has a string of pearls around her neck.

Look at gorgeous photography.

Instagram is probably the easiest way to find photos of places. Just type #nameofplace in the search box and you’ll find plenty of good photos. Or look at Lola Akinmade’s site for some amazing images or, of course, National Geographic photography.

Listen to podcasts.

Try How not to Travel or Thoughtful Travel or Amateur Traveler. There are plenty more.

Watch travel videos.

This is not something I do a lot, but here are some good ones:

Watch road trip movies.

Some movies are specifically about travel, often road trips.

  • The classic is Easy Rider, of course.
  • Into the Wild has become a classic of sorts too.
  • I haven’t seen The Motorcycle Diaries, but it sounds like it fits the bill.
  • On the Road, based on Jack Kerouac’s classic, is also one I haven’t seen, but is centered around a cross-country road trip.
  • Rain Man is a good road trip film.
  • So is Thelma and Louise, but darker.
  • If it’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium is a very dated 1969 screwball comedy, but I remember it as very funny.
A young white woman lies cozily on a white sofa. She faces to the left of the photo and has a remote in her hand, also pointing to the left. She wears grey leggings and a pink shirt.

There are plenty more; just google “road trip films.” Most of these are set in the US, so if you know any good road trip films that involve travel elsewhere, add a comment below.

Alternatively, try fellow travel blogger Sue Reddel’s list of Best Ever Food and Travel Movies.

Watch movies set in other places.

There are lots I could add to this list, but here are just a few to start you off:

  • The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel made me want to head right to India.
  • Tampopo and My Neighbor Totoro both made me want to go see Japan.
  • It’s not a movie, but the series Death in Paradise is why I chose Guadeloupe for my solo Caribbean trip.
  • To see the Rocky Mountains, try A River Runs Through It.
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was mostly filmed in Iceland.

Here’s a much more complete list by a fellow travel blogger, Cindy McCain, including suggestions from other travel bloggers: 70 Books, Movies, TV Series for Escape Now and After Quarantine.

2. Plan for future travel

This pandemic will not last forever. By some forecasts it could end this spring, or maybe it will take longer.

Either way, you could be planning your trip of a lifetime while you wait. I don’t know about you, but this travel-addicted blogger starts planning the next trip as soon as the last one is over.

A white man wearing a green t-shirt sits sideways to the camera on an armchair or sofa. He looks at a laptop in his lap. In the background, a large tv is on, showing a vague image of a woman.
  • Do your dreaming first to narrow down which place you’d most like to go. This article might help you choose a destination.
  • Read everything you can about the place.
  • Consult blogs about budgeting for that place, if money is an issue.
  • Go ahead and book flights. Most of the more established airlines are offering free rebooking because they really need people to book flights now, and the prices tend to be low. Read the small print carefully, of course, before you book, to make sure you’d get a refund if you have to cancel.
  • Get “cancel for any reason” travel insurance, just in case. Again, read the small print to make sure it’ll include COVID-19 related cancelations.
  • Plan your itinerary. I usually do this by making a list of all the things I’d like to see, then starring the ones that I absolutely can’t miss.
  • Next, I use Google Maps’ “My places” function to add all of the places to a map. From this, I can see which are feasible and start figuring out what route I’ll take to get from one to the other. Save the map and download it to your phone and/or print it out.
  • Once I have my itinerary, I book the hotels. That takes time when I’m not in a hurry: I enjoy looking at the pictures, comparing prices and trying to picture myself in a given place. Because of the pandemic, I’d make sure only to book hotels that have a lenient cancellation policy. Many on Booking.com allow cancellations up to a week before, sometimes even the day before.
  • Later, I can book in-country transportation as needed, whether that means a rental car or train tickets or whatever. These can usually be booked fairly last minute.
  • I also might need to book tickets for attractions. Places like, for example, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam or the Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueres, Spain need to be booked well ahead. So do Broadway shows in New York or boat trips in many places. Use Tiqets or GetYourGuide to book many sights and attractions around the world. Again, read the small print about cancellations!

If you take your time to choose your destination and then really immerse yourself in the planning, this could fill up several weeks of your formal or informal quarantine. And it’s fun to do!

My hope – everyone’s hope, I assume – is that by the time you’re ready to travel, the world will be ready for you again.

3. Reminisce

If you’re like me, you have thousands of photos from past travel. The older ones – if you pre-date digital cameras, like I do – are on paper, stuffed in a box or falling out of old photo albums. The newer ones are on your computer – and, yes, they can all disappear, like all of my pre-2015 photos did when a network drive died.

two rows of photo albums of various shapes, sizes and colors. On the top shelf they are mostly in two piles, with a few smaller ones standing between the piles. On the lower shelf they are all upright but leaning to the left.

Go through the older paper ones first. Enjoy the memories, but it’s also a good idea to take a picture of each one, just in case.

Next, look through the digital ones. Before you do anything else, back them all up onto a separate external hard drive and/or a USB stick and/or a cloud file, if you haven’t already. I’ve learned that the hard way.

Organize your digital photos in some way into folders – I use country files with a sub-file for each trip and/or city and/or date and/or sight. It’s useful to rename the photos in some way that will help you find them again, instead of the random numbers your camera assigns. Delete the bad ones when you have a better version of the same object or view.

A tip: if you right-click on a photo and scroll down to “file info” or “properties,” it will tell you when the photo was taken.

If you want to take this further, make yourself a photo album (or two or three or…) from your digital photos. I won’t make a recommendation of which company to do this with because I haven’t done it yet myself. I’ve seen photo albums others have made, though, and they can be really high-quality hard or soft-bound books with glossy photos. Using the website of whatever company you choose, you select your best photos, arrange them yourself on-screen, add captions, and so on. Once you’ve finished and paid, they’ll send you a beautiful memory book.

Do the same thing with the photos you took of your printed pictures, while you’re at it. The memory book(s) will take far less space than those old photo albums that are falling apart. You can throw the album out and save the photos in a box somewhere out of sight.

I hope these three ideas are of some help in this trying time. Much as all of us travel addicts are suffering withdrawal right now, we’re incredibly fortunate – privileged – to do all the traveling we do. A few weeks or months of enforced motionlessness won’t hurt us. Dreaming, planning and reminiscing will help pass the time until our next fix.

Do you have other suggestions for the travel-addicted in your life? I’d like to hear it: add a comment below! And please share this article with them!

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Photo: a young Asian woman sits curled up in a chair with her knees up to the side, supporting a laptop. She smiles as she looks at the laptop. She wears a set of headphones with a microphone attached.


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about Rachel

Hi, I’m Rachel!

Rachel’s Ruminations is a travel blog focused on independent travel with an emphasis on cultural and historical sites/sights. I also occasionally write about life as an expatriate. I hope you enjoy what I post here; feel free to leave comments!  Read more…
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Great tips, Rachel. I think that reading travel books, watching travel shows & reminiscing over our past trips is a great way to get thru this stage of prohibited travel.

I love reading books about travel or which are set in a different country or culture…and thanks to your list I am going to check out some of these films as well

What a great set of ideas you have collected to deal with wanderlust. We are betting that all of the research and reminiscing will help fuel tons of travel once the current environment passes.

Thanks for the advice! Great tips, I find myself reminiscing often these days and now trying to focus on upcoming future travel plans which I can now research to a T!

Yes there’s always options in watching, reading and planning a wanderlust adventure, thanks for the tips above.

These are all great ideas to help us keep busy and dreaming during our confinement. Fortunately, I have plenty of books and magazines to keep me busy for a long, long time, and as long as we have electricity my computer can zip me off to far away places I’d like to explore.

Linked to this in my last post. Thank you for your contribution. Great advice–enjoying looking through my photos, planning future trips, and checking out travel blogs and books you suggested.

I’ll definitely be starting to plan my next trip, but what really gives me solace (against the craziness of Coronavirus) is looking at gorgeous photos….of France!

Such great ideas on how to use the time you have to plan, reminisce, watch some movies to dream about your next travels.

This is a really nice prompt for pivoting from today’s news and fears to the hopes and plans for the future. And thanks for including us in your travel blog suggestions, too!

Some great tips here. I’m certainly going to be spending some of my time digitising old photo albums.

We are still working our way home. We cancelled 2.5 months of our 4.5 month RV trip, coupled with a month in Hawaii on 6 islands and diving, so I know how you feel. At the same time, I am sure hoe is the best place for us as this pandemic continues to spread.
Instead of all that travel, I hope to get the spring cleaning you mention done, and especially clearing out the basement and cleaning the old stuff from my office. It has never been fun to do that stuff, but I am sort of happy that I am forced to do it. (Might be the only way to get me to stop traveling and organize my house better.) I am also looking forward to watching all the Netflix and Prime that I never seem to have time for. And I plan to be that ‘armchair traveler’ that you mention. You could add https://adventurousretirement.com/ to that list of travel blogs for the armchair traveler – and will be writing and publishing lots more on travel (the places that I have not yet had time to write about).
Looking forward to catching up on the reading and writing about travel.